My Assembly minority colleagues and I have been promoting significant changes in New York’s budget process for some time. Now, the state budget passed, on time, after 20 straight years of late budgets! I’d say progress is being made.
The reforms and progress of this year are encouraging, and I know they helped bring in the budget by the April 1 deadline! It’s encouraging to see improvements made, though there is still more to do. New York has needed reform in the budget process and throughout state government for a long time, and I truly believe we are now on the correct path.
A cornerstone of our budget reform package was implementation of budget conference committees, which are bipartisan work groups from the Assembly and Senate that were charged with hammering out a state budget agreement between the two houses. This year, the Legislature implemented budget conference committees as of March 15, just as the Assembly minority requested.
Making the comptroller the final arbitrator on anticipated budget revenues if an agreement on those numbers weren’t reached by March 10 was yet another part of our plan. Again, this additional important aspect of our budget reform package was agreed to by legislative leaders. Fortunately, this safeguard was not necessary because legislative leaders reached an expected revenue consensus before the deadline.
There were more improvements to this year’s budget process, including having the minority leaders of both houses participate in ongoing budget talks and opening to the public the negotiations for a new spending plan. Adding transparency to these meetings, I believe, streamlined the budget process and helped lead to approval of an on-time budget.
Though there were significant changes to the process, one idea that has remained consistent to passing a budget in New York is a spirit of bipartisanship and compromise. In 2005, the Legislature showed more convergence than I can ever remember. Agreeing on issues such as economic development and Medicaid reform were especially challenging, but working together as a legislative body – not individual parties – helped us complete the budget.
I will work to the best of my ability to see this through and make a stronger, more efficient New York in the years to come. Now that we know a budget can be adopted on time, we need to ensure that it happens every year – for the good of all New Yorkers.